Black, Hispanic patients more likely to be sent to safety-net hospital EDs

Black and Hispanic patients are more likely to be transported to emergency departments in safety-net hospitals than white patients in the same ZIP code, according to a study published Sept. 6 in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers analyzed Medicare claims data on 864,750 patients from 4,175 ZIP codes who visited the emergency department from Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2012. They compared how often black, Hispanic and white patients entered the ED most frequently used by white patients (the reference ED). 

They found 61.3 percent of white patients were transported by EMS to the reference ED, compared to 56 percent of black patients and 58.8 percent of Hispanic patients. Black and Hispanic patients were also more likely to be transported to a safety-net ED compared to white patients: While 21.2 percent of black patients and 20.4 percent of Hispanic patients visited safety-net EDs, only 18.5 percent of white patients did. Researchers observed similar disparities among patients who were not transported by EMS.

"The findings indicate that ED or hospital destination of EMS transport may not be guided primarily be proximity," the study's authors wrote.

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